Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra – Jeremie Rhorer, conductor; Augustin Hadelich, violin. May 14, 2016.

NJPAC in Newark.  Orchestra (Seat G105, $52.)

The Hebrides Overture, “Fingal’s Cave” Op. 26 (1829-30, revised until 1835) by Mendelssohn (1809-1847).
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op, 35 (1878) by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).
Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 (1857-58) by Brahms (1833-1897).

We got home after a 240 or so mile drive from Boston on Friday, the previous night.  And for today (Saturday) we needed to check into our hotel in Rockville, MD; we were planning on attending a 9:45 am service on Sunday.

Our daughter and others, after hearing this, all agreed the prudent thing to do was to skip the concert. But with Hadelich playing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, I really wanted to hear it.  So we decided to compromise by leaving after the first half of the program.

I usually don’t do any research, beyond reading the Program Notes, before I listen to a live concert.  Either I am that lazy, or I don’t want to be biased towards one particular interpretation.  (For similar reasons I don’t read the reviews either.)  There are those who swear by learning about the music as much as possible beforehand.  I imagine there are reasons to go one way or another.

Today I made the “mistake” of searching for the overture on YouTube, and listened to it.  It matched very well the description in today’s Program Notes, with the seas around the island calm at times, and stormy at others.  Tonight’s performance was at best competent, I had to really work on my imagination to picture the scenery. Perhaps it’s the unfavorable comparison to the YouTube tape, or it was simply an uninspired reading.

Fingal’s Cave is on an island that is just a little south from the Isle of Skye, a place we are visiting later this summer.  It would be interesting if we can find a way to see the cave.

The size of the orchestra remained the same for Tchaikovsky.  Hadelich put in a great performance, although the violin was slight off-tune after the first movement, some of which couldn’t be fixed as they were harmonics, but a bit of minor tuning before the second movement (and the enthusiastic applause) fixed the problem.

We were seated quite close to the stage, and I expected a great sound from the instrument.  Not that there was anything wrong with it, but the violin didn’t quite have the brilliance of a Stradivarius, and didn’t quite measure up to my memory of Hadelich’s previous performances.  The Program Notes doesn’t mention the violin, so let me try a web search now … the Wikipedia entry says he is still playing on the 1723 Stradivarius.  I also found out he suffered severe burns when he was a teenager and required extensive skin grafts during his recovery.

The applause was thunderous, and for encore he played Paganini’s Caprice No. 5.  It was close to perfect.  So readers of this blog won’t complain about my harsh grading, I considered the way he played No. 24 perfect, and this was certainly a better performance than the last time I heard him play it.  (So far he’s played Paganini’s caprices as encores for all three of the concerts.)

We have seen Rohrer conduct a couple of times before, leading the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra.  I described him as animated, and he was relatively subdued today.

We left Newark a bit after 9:15 pm, and it was about 1:30 am that we checked into the hotel in Rockville, MD.  It was worth the trouble to go to this concert.